It looks smart, and the business plan behind it does, too:

Microsoft on Thursday unveiled a long-awaited version of its Office suite for iPad, bringing productivity applications Word, Excel and PowerPoint to Apple’s tablet lineup, requiring users to subscribe to its Office 365 service for editing documents.

Microsoft was quick to emphasize at a media event in San Francisco on Thursday that the new Office for iPad was built from the ground up for Apple’s platform. They showcased how documents can be synced to Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud service.

Office for iPad will use what Microsoft referred to as a “freemium model,” allowing users to install the app view documents, but requiring a subscription to Office 365 to make edits.

This might have been exciting had Redmond introduced it alongside the iPad 2 three years ago. But by now, tens of millions have discovered they don’t need Office, freemium or otherwise.

I expect Office for iPad to be downloaded like crazy, but I’m less sure how many will pay for Office 365, or even actually use the suite beyond a cursory examination.

ON SECOND THOUGHT: This just occurred to me. Corporate IT buys far more iPads than Android tablets, and they’ll probably preinstall this on company machines without a second thought. That might not add new paid users to Office 365, but it could certainly help slow the rot.